Category Archives: Björn News

Björn Ulvaeus talks Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The world premiere event for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again took place at London’s Eventim Apollo.

On Monday 16 July 2018 at London’s Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again received its world premiere. Released to the wider world on 20 July, the movie has already smashed box office records around the globe.

At the after premiere party in London, Björn told icethesite about the reception the premiere crowd had given the movie:

“It was absolutely fantastic. The event was really quite special with all the actors gathered on the stage before the showing. The reaction was something else!”

Scenes from the world premiere which took place on 16 July

And how was it that ‘Mamma Mia! 2’ finally came into being?

“Well the story has to serve the songs and the other way around of course. And we waited until we had a script that everyone agreed we could work with. Ol Parker did a brilliant job of weaving the story together and then we could see that there was a second movie in there after all!”

What was it like revisiting decades old songs in order to rewrite lyrics for the movie?

“Movie songs have to serve the story and where it was felt that the originals didn’t quite hit a particular moment on the head, I was more than happy to make a few changes here and there. Where in the ABBA recordings the stories were self contained, with the movie I had to ensure that they fitted the wider story.

“The new lyrics came to me pretty quickly and they felt very organic.

“For My Love, My Life to be set in a church meant that revisiting it in its new setting had religious overtones for me.”

Even though you are an atheist?

“Even though and maybe because of. Religion is a fascinating subject to me.”

Have Agnetha and Frida seen the movie yet?
“Not yet but I am pretty sure they will be very happy, as we are, when they do. It’s a good flick.”

There’s more…

Benny delighted party goers when he took to the piano and accompanied Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies in an impromptu rendition of <em>Mamma Mia. </em>Dancing queens Judy Craymer and Christine Baranski were clearly having the time of their lives!

Benny delighted party goers when he took to the piano and accompanied Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies in an impromptu rendition of Mamma Mia. Dancing queens Judy Craymer and Christine Baranski were clearly having the time of their lives!

CHESS press night at The London Coliseum

CHESS is officially up and running again in London’s West End. The Benny Andersson, Tim Rice and Björn Ulvaeus musical has finished its previews at the home of the English National Opera and last night launched to the press. We had a chance to chat with some of the cast and creatives about their involvement in this epic revival.

Benny Andersson and Tim Rice

Benny Andersson and Tim Rice

Benny told us: “This is how Björn and I have always envisioned CHESS. A large and wonderful orchestra, a powerful choir and a great rock band form the backbone of the score. Then add in some great voices and performances from the principals, like we have here, and well, I will definitely be coming back to see it again.”

Sir Tim said that he was delighted by the ENO’s treatment of the show that was last in the West End over thirty years ago. “I think this production is magnificent. Truly spectacular and so well crafted and staged. It sounds glorious.”

Cassidy Janson plays Florence Vassy

Cassidy Janson plays Florence Vassy

Florence, the role first played by Elaine Paige, who was among the audience last night, is played by Cassidy Janson (who played Carole King in the West End version of Beautiful). She brings her character’s journey of passion and pain alive to great tear-jerking effect.

She told icethesite that she was loving every moment of performing in CHESS and that to be at The London Coliseum was a dream come true. “I already don’t want it to end,” she said.

Michael Ball has long sung the show stopping Anthem in his concert tours and has always wanted to perform the role of Anatoly. He said he is relishing this opportunity to sing with the 60 piece orchestra of the ENO…”and who wouldn’t?!” he said.

Cedric Neal is The Arbiter, keeping a masterful eye on proceedings at the World Chess Championships, and bringing a rich vocal twist to his numbers, squeezing in a few intricate runs here and there.

Alexandra Burke with Cedric Neal

Alexandra Burke with Cedric Neal

The role of Anatoly’s wife, Svetlana Sergievsky’s has been expanded from the London production of the 1980s and is performed superbly at The Coliseum by Alexandra Burke.

The part now includes a song new to London, imported from Chess på Svenska (the hit Swedish CHESS production). He Is A Man, He Is A Child helps establish Svetlana’s character and the emotional journey she finds herself on as Act Two begins.

Alexandra told us: “I’ll be honest, I didn’t know CHESS, the score or the show before the part came along. I agreed to the role when I learned of the credentials of the team behind this production, the fact it is the ENO, that it is here at The Coliseum and that Tim Rice, and Benny and Björn from ABBA had written the music.

Then when I knew who my fellow cast members were going to be and we started rehearsing this amazing music with the incredible orchestra, I absolutely knew I had made the right decision.”

Tim Howar at last night's CHESS press night

Tim Howar at last night’s CHESS press night

Tim Howar plays Frederick Trumper, the troubled American chess player who vies for the world title with Anatoly in Act One. He is particularly sensational during Pity The Child, often dubbed ‘Pity The Singer’ due to its emotional complexity and wide musical range.

However, Tim said he was originally tried out for the role of The Arbiter. “When Benny and Björn saw the videos of my Arbiter performance, they suggested instead that the production had found its Freddie Trumper. “We need a rock guy,” they said.

“I am a huge CHESS fan and have been for years, even performing the show in an amateur dramatics society years ago back in Canada. At first I just wanted to be a part, any part of this London show if I could, but when I landed the role of the American, I knew that I could bring memories of certain episodes from my own past family history to the role and at the same time have a blast every night.”

Tim with Jodie and baby Hamish

Tim with wife Jodie and baby Hamish

Tim hit the headlines when he had to leave at the end of the first act of the first preview of CHESS last Thursday.

On hearing that his wife Jodie Oliver-Howar had gone into labour, he rushed to be by her side. Their son Hamish might have stolen his dad away from CHESS at the first preview but incredibly at just four days old, he was there to add his support on press night!

The entire creative team, from set and lighting designers, the phenomenal orchestra under the baton of John Rigby, the chorus and all the principals (special mention too for Philip Browne’s menacing Molokov) have breathed new life into CHESS.

In this guise, the story appears much clearer without obvious signposting and each number is given a fresh, thoughtful musical and theatrical treatment.

Benny, Tim and Björn each loved it and that really is high praise!

CHESS runs until 2 June. Get tickets.

Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus onboard for Mamma Mia! sequel

News recently surfaced of a sequel to the movie smash Mamma Mia!. And yes, ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus have given the project their seal of approval and will also serve as executive producers.

The sequel Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again will be set once more on the Greek island of Kalokairi, and reunites the producers from the original film, Judy Craymer (who created and produced the stage show) and Gary Goetzman.

Ol Parker

New this time around is Ol Parker, who has written the new movie and will also direct.

Ol is best known for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) and Now Is Good (2012).

The new Universal Pictures movie will feature ABBA songs that weren’t included in the first film and also reprises some of the most popular.

Mamma Mia! The Movie, which was released in 2008, was a huge worldwide hit, making $609.8M in global box office sales. Until this year’s Beauty And The Beast, Mamma Mia! was the biggest grossing live-action musical ever.

The original cast, including Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper are all expected to return for the second outing of the musical.

The news of the new movie has divided ABBA fans, much like the original stage show and movie did. One thing that no-one can deny is how phenomenally successful those two showcases of ABBA’s music went on to become.

Look out for much more news about the new film which is set to hit the silver screen in July 2018, ten years after the original was released.

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